VOODOO – Album Review: “Ashes”

Voodoo Ashes album

Norway has a vibrant music scene, and I’ve featured on this blog a number of bands and artists from the Scandinavian nation, including No Mind State, Sherpa, Antipole and Lazy Queen. My latest find is alternative rock quartet Vöödöö. Formed in late 2014 and based in Bergen, the band consists of Gøran Stavang Skage (Vocals), Sveinung Fossan Bukve (Guitar), Stian Brungot (Bass) and Giuliano Antonio LoMonaco (Drums). They combine powerful rock beats with massive guitar riffs and catchy melodies to create their exciting modern sound, which is showcased on their debut album Ashes. The album dropped in mid-September, after the release over the past several months of a number of singles that are featured on the album.

In their bio, they describe the elements of their music thusly: “The unique sound of Vöödöö comes from the band’s wide span in musical background and approach. Guitarist Sveinung Bukve is a gear-freak with a vast selection of pedals, sometimes combined to create overwhelming huge effects more similar to an organ or a spacecraft than an actual guitar, sometimes more controlled to cut through the mix with in-your-face riffs. The rhythm section is all about hard beats and hard bass fingering, though dynamic, it is about making you feel the beat, not only in your eardrums but through the torso and into the home of your soul. Last but definitely not least, Vöödöö will charm you all the way with the high-pitched mind-baffling vocals of the theatrical Gøran.”

Voodoo

So let’s dig into Ashes to see if Vöödöö lives up to the hype. The album opens strong with the sensational title track “Ashes,” immediately hooking us in with a spooky chord and strong drumbeat, followed by a cascade of jangley riffs. The guitars, bass and drums intertwine nicely with Gøran’s soaring impassioned vocals as they all build to a spine-tingling crescendo halfway into the track. Then Sveinung unleashes a blistering gnarly riff as Stian’s deep bass and Giuliano’s crashing cymbals bring things to a dramatic finish before ending with a drawn out repeat of the opening guitar chord. It’s a fantastic song, and listen for yourself to hear what I’m talking about:

Next up is the anthemic “Lay Me to Rest,” Vöödöö’s very first single release and a sizable hit, earning over 110,000 plays on Spotify. I can see why, as it’s a real banger, with a heavy, pounding beat, hard-driving bass and jagged guitar riffs that’ll have you shouting “fuck yeah!” Gøran brings chills as he all but screams: “But the only thing I want from you is to save me from being scared. Love me, then disappear. Hold me, then let me go. Drag me, but I’ll never face the fire to see you again.” The guitar work is outstanding, and I love the little flourishes of piano synths sprinkled throughout.

By the time the third track “The Secret” plays, I’m hooked on this band. I love their melodic, thumping rhythms, killer guitars and Gøran’s fiery vocals that bring unbridled passion to every track. And “Dots” has all these qualities in spades. The track starts off with a cool keyboard synth-driven melody, fuzzy guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. Suddenly, it’s all ripped apart by a stabbing cadence of gritty riffs and Gøran’s frenzied vocals that leave me gasping for breath all the way to the end.

Vöödöö continue delivering hard-hitting rock goodness with “Shine On,” the bluesy “Broken Cage,” and the frenetic “Let it Burn.” But one of my favorite tracks is “King and Clown,” a monumental work that borders on symphonic rock. This song has it all – catchy as hell surf guitar, dramatic, achingly beautiful melodies, heart-stopping percussion, and gorgeous soaring vocal harmonies. But the real highlight is Gøran’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics that bring a new layer of chills on top of the ones already caused by the incredible instrumentals. This man can sing! He alternately seduces, pleads and screams, his voice nearly reaching the breaking point as he wails “Freedom is power you know. It’s not over. Free from deception and lies, it’s not over.” My god, this is an awesome song!

They close the album with “The Rope,” a slow, mournful song that’s a major departure from their other hard-rocking songs. The brief but beautiful tune opens with only an acoustic guitar, accompanied by Gøran’s sorrowful vocals, then is joined in the second half by a gnarly electric guitar that seems to convey the sense of heartbreak expressed in the lyrics: “When you are gone. Left me here, I’m hanging by the rope. You broke, even though you never meant to hurt.”

To sum up, Ashes is a phenomenal album and an impressive debut for this talented band of musicians. Their songwriting, musicianship and vocals are incredible, and they should be very proud of this work.

Connect with Voodoo:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Indie Recordings

PAUL IWAN – Single Review: “Parasite”

Paul Iwan

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in the music mecca of Liverpool, England. He’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, more recently, writing and recording his own songs. In 2008 he was mentored and championed by Ray Davies of The Kinks, and continues to collaborate with other artists and friends across the UK. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, an impressive tour-de-force that I reviewed, and encourage my readers to check out. Now, Paul is back with a powerful new track “Parasite.” It’s the first single off his forthcoming second album RESISTER, a autobiographical work of sorts that will address his newfound sobriety.

Paul told me that not long after the release of Reveal, “I was involved in a motorcycle accident, just as I was preparing to gig, which set me back quite a bit. In the following 18 months, I got clean and now I’m in recovery… I didn’t realise I had an issue, until I did! ‘Parasite’ is a warning, a lesson and a true story. Like all of the songs on RESISTER, this song is a fragment of my life prior to getting clean. It’s a song about addiction becoming a permanent fixture to solve issues, to erase memories and repress feelings.

“Parasite” was written, performed and produced by Paul, with Steven Burkert on drums. It was recorded at Studio 45 and SPACE in Liverpool, mixed by Andy Fernihough and beautifully mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode). The song opens strong with a gnarly guitar riff and Burkert’s pummeling drumbeat, accompanied by an echoed backing chorus repeating ‘OH!’ as Paul sings in his urgent tenor vocals of his internal struggles: “My head begins to spin, my double vision taking me. My soul, my body, my mind, I wish I could control it all again.” The music builds with heavier guitar and bass, hammering drums and glittery piano synths, ultimately exploding with Paul’s frantic riffs of jagged guitar in the chorus as he fervently agonizes: “I’m a pulsar. I’m paralyzed. Pulled apart by the parasite. A stranger in my own skin.

Eventually, a male voice over speaks of the pathology of alcohol addiction:  “Nobody quite knows which drink it is that takes him over the edge of being a merely social, hearty, laughing drinker into a morose and hungover wretched creature.” Paul laments of his inability to shake off his addiction: “The shame I feel is all too real. I know that I’m addicted. I’m too weak to stay in the fight. I’m down.” The guitars and power drums continue to rage and roil through to the end, making for a dramatic finish to a spectacular and deeply moving song. The lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production are all superb, and I look forward to hearing RESISTER upon it’s completion.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  Amazon

Top 30 Songs for October 28-November 3, 2018

I. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (2)
2. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (1)
3. GHOST – Badflower (3)
4. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (7)
5. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (8)
6. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (6)
7. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (4)
8. PANIC – Agency Panic (10)
9. BODY TALKS – The Struts (13)
10. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (14)
11. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (12)
12. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (5)
13. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (15)
14. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (16)
15. UH HUH – Jade Bird (17)
16. HAPPIER – Marshmello featuring Bastille (18)
17. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (19)
18. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (9)
19. SHAME – Elle King (20)
20. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (22)
21. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (11)
22. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (23)
23. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (25)
24. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (26)
25. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband (28)
26. YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN – Billie Eilish (29)
27. VISIONS – Dirty Heads featuring Kitten (30)
28. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (21)
29. HURT PEOPLE – Two Feet featuring Madison Love (N)
30. MAKE IT UP AS I GO – Mike Shinoda featuring K.Flay (N)

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Real Friends”

Louie James3

Louie James is an outstanding young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. I featured him on this blog only a month ago, when I reviewed his lovely acoustic single “Yellow Doors” (which you can read here). Now this prolific artist is back with a moving new single “Real Friends,” along with a brilliant companion video. On “Real Friends,” Louie departs from his usual mellow acoustic style, employing layers of glittery synths to create a beautiful and haunting track.

In the verses, Louie sings in his gentle vocal style, accompanied by delicate electronic synths that convey a sense of sadness amid the lovely sounds. His vocals become more impassioned in the choruses as the synths swell into a lush soundscape brimming with emotional intensity.

The mournful lyrics speak to a bitter realization that the friends you thought you had don’t really care about or support you:

Who needs enemies with friends like these?
Talk all the shit you want
They’re out for blood and…
A lonely life when you trust no one.

Walk around with a chip up on your shoulder
21 but I don’t feel any older
Run me off, take another stab shot
Tear it all down, this is everything that I’ve got

Real friends are with me til the end but…
Woke again to another fatal head shot
Don’t forget me, this thing you’re making
Real friends but I know you’re only snaking

The video opens with Louie staring into a mirror, crossing out the eyes of his forlorn reflection with lipstick. As the video continues, he’s shown singing while soaking in a bathtub or standing in front of the mirror, where he writes “Real Friends” on the glass with lipstick, eventually crossing out the words. I love the song and video!

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

FRED HILLS – Single Review: “Ketu”

Fred Hills is a creative and talented freelance drummer and composer from Brighton, UK, and he’s just released a captivating new instrumental single “Ketu.” A graduate of the British Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, Fred combines his love of jazz, rock, prog, electronica, folk and world music with inspiration from his favorite artists, as well as his travels, to create compositions filled with colorful rhythms and melodic ‘open-handed’ beats. Fred has collaborated and performed in the UK and Europe with a number of musicians and groups, including The Slytones, Hot Moth, Time for T, Ellie Ford, Michael Baker and Mara Simpson.

Fred told me that “Ketu” was inspired by his travels around India in late 2017. In their premier of the song’s video, the online music webzine Arctic Drones notes that the song was also inspired by “his experience with Hindu astrology, which sparked an interest in how lunar and solar energy systems may affect someone both mentally and physically. Fred stated that “Ketu” represents karmic collections – both good and bad – tangible and supernatural influences.” He adds that “Ketu” is an instrumental song built on an expansive emotional spectrum, mixing ambivalence and enchantment, hope and discovery.” The track was co-produced by Fred and Alex Barron, who also played bass and did the mixing and mastering.

The song opens with mysterious synths and a delicate guitar riff, then Fred’s intricate drums enter as the synths and guitar expand with the introduction of Alex’s bluesy bass notes. Fred’s arresting drum work, which the track is built around, has a quiet intensity that’s incredibly dynamic, yet never overpowering. The sparkling synths are gorgeous, and his jazzy guitar riffs are fantastic. In the video, Fred appears to be almost in a trance-like state as he plays the drums, which is the same feeling I get while listening to this gorgeous and mesmerizing song. Watch, listen, and see for yourself:

To learn more about Fred, check out his Website

Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Check out more of his music on Soundcloud
Purchase “Ketu” on Bandcamp

HEIST AT FIVE – Interview and Single Review: “Finish What You Started”

Heist At Five is a charismatic and multi-talented electro/hard rock band based in London, UK. Their aggressive, innovative sound borders on experimental rock, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. This past February they released an impressive debut EP The Blacklist (which I reviewed), and now return with a wicked new single “Finish What You Started,” which officially drops on October 26.

Heist at Five finish what you started cover

Like many bands, Heist At Five has undergone a few personnel changes, but the current line-up consists of Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. A special shout out goes to David Marvelly and former band guitarist Huw Roberts, who helped the song come together with production, and mixing. I sent the guys some questions about their band, creative process, and the new single, and received thoughtful – and sometimes cheeky – responses from four of these charming lads on every question.

EML: Hi guys, thanks for wanting to discuss your new single “Finish What You Started.” Before we get into the song and video, tell me how you came together to form Heist At Five, given your international origins. (Oskar is from Sweden, Jozef from Slovakia, Marco from Italy and Josh is English.)

Marco – The paths we chose individually took almost all of us to the same music uni in London. Oskar and I met in the very first week of uni and he soon invited me to jam with his new flatmate. There, I found Josh behind the kit! We clicked almost instantly; I remember our first feedback said that it felt like we had been playing together for years, and at that point we realised this could really go somewhere.

Josh – When we started playing together and eventually made it a band, we went through a fair few line-up changes, which I think is quite normal. Eventually, Jozef appeared, and Heist At Five was born!

Jozef – Yeah. I’d studied music in the UK, same as the rest of the band, just at a different institution. About a year ago I was simply on a lookout for a new project and among the ads, the selection was pitiful. So I just went for a lesser evil 😀  Kidding – the first part is true, but when I looked up these guys I knew it was it! The rest is history.

Oskar – It is really cool to have a group where every member is from a different country. It has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.

EML: How do you go about creating new songs? Do you all share songwriting duties?

Jozef – We try to have songwriting sessions regularly and write together as a band. Sometimes one is inspired, sometimes other …sometimes no-one.

Oskar- If it’s good, its good. Then where or from when or what it comes from doesn’t matter.

Josh – Yeah, our songwriting sessions are completely random. The intro riff to “Finish What You Started,” for example, was accidentally written when we were just checking if our MIDI keyboard was working! But we always try and use different approaches to songwriting, we haven’t got a specific “process” (yet).

Marco – Initially we would write more independently, everyone bringing his own little song. Then we realised that, probably because of our different tastes, they would differ too much from each other. Since last year we started having sessions all together from start to finish of a song and it’s been really refreshing. Ideas come from everyone, we all motivate each other and we got to known ourselves much better since then.

EML: “Finish What You Started” has a bit more of a progressive metal vibe than the songs on your debut EP “The Blacklist.” Is this representative of the new musical direction you mention on your Spotify page?

Jozef – It definitely is! In this song we wanted to show that we’re not afraid of going heavily electronic. At the same time, with this song being the first one with me on the bill, I pioneer a slightly more modern approach to metal guitar playing within the band. In various forms and shapes, we hope to manifest these trends in our music going forward.

Josh – We definitely wanted to try and be a bit more ballsy, and make ‘Finish’a big “IN YOUR FACE” kind of statement. And I think that will continue to be our approach. We all have different influences but we all have the collective vision to take those and make something modern and massive.

Oskar – I’d say both yes and no. I want everyone to know that you never will be able to predict the next move from Heist At Five. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t…

Marco – While ”The Blacklist” already flirts quite a bit with the electronic edge, with ‘Finish’ we decided to be even bolder to the point of undermining the usual hierarchy you find in modern pop/rock song with a big chorus. I love the fact that it’s boiling hot but it never quite explodes, and always leaves you on the verge.

EML: It certainly does! I’ve listened to the song several times, but can’t quite figure out what it is that was started that needs to be finished. Is it perhaps a metaphor for the band’s music mission?

Jozef – I’ll leave this one for Oskar to answer.

Oskar – I’m going to break every songwriters golden rule to not explain the lyrics and ruin the magic, but please, keep on coming with your own interpretations – they are as true, if not truer, than ours. By following our mission statement of letting the audience make up their own minds about the world they live in, it’s written very open-mindedly on purpose. One layer in the song is about the fear and uncertainty of going through with ideas and things in life, as there is no guarantee they will turn out the way we envisioned. Is it worth finishing these things? Maybe it ends up in a place that is great! But if you are unlucky, it could be terrible, so maybe it’s better to never finish what you started.

Josh – Maybe you made a cup of tea and forgot about it, and it’s going to go cold soon. (You’re welcome by the way)

Marco – Josh’s right, I always forget to drink my tea!!

EML: In the video – which is very cool by the way – the mysterious person whose face we never see is shown at the beginning putting on a hoodie he finds laying on the pavement. He then walks around, almost stalking the different band members, but never actually threatening or accosting them. At the video’s end, he vanishes into the night as his hoodie returns to the ground. What or who does the mystery guy symbolize?

Oskar – We wanted to make a video that didn’t just show what we spoke about in the song, but added layers to the story and concept.  Maybe “hoodie man” is just a projection of our consciousness, seeing our actions from an outsiders point of view, a symbol of doubt or disbelief in if we are doing the right thing. In the twist at the end, in true M. Night Shyamalan spirit, it is maybe implied that ideas are bigger than the people and personalities behind them. As the idea is executed, the faces will be forgotten but the idea they finished will remain. But I’m not going to rant on for an eternity, go on and make up your mind about what it means to you 😉

Marco – Another potential interpretation is that the “Hoodie man”, as we like to call him, by restricting his view, only has the focus on what’s in front of him. He perseveres in whatever direction he wants, regardless of what happens around him. His goal? That’s for the viewer to decide.

EML: Are you guys currently writing and recording more songs? Any plans for a second EP or possible full-length album?

Jozef – With the trends in today’s music industry in mind, we decided that for a while we’ll continue with single releases until the time comes for something bigger. The next one is being recorded as we speak!

Oskar – Yeah, we think that by doing individual singles, we get the opportunity to take bolder creative decisions, and totally go in a new fresh direction for each release.

Marco – A lot is in the pot right now: Yes, we are recording and writing new material. Our plan at the moment is to keep the hype up with new single releases, although I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of including them in a new EP or an album in the near future. Only time will tell!

Josh – It’s actually exciting not knowing exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re not limiting ourselves musically, and I think that’s clear to see with “Finish What You Started”.

Thanks guys! So let’s check out the new single. The track opens with a buzzing riff, then Josh’s pounding drums enter the scene, accompanied by discordant spacey synths as Oskar sings in an almost sinister voice:

Is this how you imagined it? That work of art inside your head?
What you once saw in black and white is fading out.
Spinning round and round, and suddenly it’s harder to see what’s up and what’s down.
Swimming in the deep end now.
So take a deep breath, and finish what you started, started, started.

Marco lays down a heavy bass line that serves as a sturdy foundation for Jozef’s gnarly guitar and Josh’s power drums as the spacey industrial-sounding synths continue. I love how the the roiling riffs of distorted guitar and pummeling drums are so thoroughly in sync, punctuated here and there by frantic flourishes that seem to rip at the airwaves, making for a unsettling, yet mesmerizing song. Watch and listen:

Connect with Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

Top 30 Songs for October 21-27, 2018

1. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (1)
2. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (6)
3. GHOST – Badflower (3)
4. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (2)
5. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (4)
6. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (7)
7. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (8)
8. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (9)
9. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (5)
10. PANIC – Agency Panic (11)
11. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (10)
12. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (13)
13. BODY TALKS – The Struts (14)
14. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (15)
15. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (17)
16. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (18)
17. UH HUH – Jade Bird (19)
18. HAPPIER – Marshmello featuring Bastille (20)
19. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (21)
20. SHAME – Elle King (22)
21. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (12)
22. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (25)
23. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (24)
24. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (16)
25. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (28)
26. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (30)
27. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (23)
28. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband (N)
29. YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN – Billie Eilish (N)
30. VISIONS – Dirty Heads featuring Kitten (N)

ITHACA BOTTOM BOYS – Album Review: “Ithaca Bottom Boys”

Ithaca Bottom Boys album

Being EclecticMusicLover, I love discovering interesting new music, so it was my lucky day when I was contacted by Leo Maniscalco, a member of the band Ithaca Bottom Boys, about reviewing their album. Hailing from the bucolic college town of Ithaca, New York, the five-piece formed seven years ago while still in high school, and ever since have been honing their craft by playing together and writing songs. On September 1st, they dropped their eponymous debut album Ithaca Bottom Boys, and what a delight it is! Their infectious eclectic sound is refreshing, surprising and lots of fun as they weave stories about the travails of life, love, substance abuse and relationship hell.

Comprising the Ithaca Bottom Boys are Tenor Caso (drums, vocals, aux percussion, acoustic guitar), Tristan Ross (guitar, vocals, aux percussion, piano ), Leo Maniscalco (guitar), Joe Hayward (banjo, vocals) and Abel Bradshaw (bass). In introducing his band, Leo had this to say about their music:  “Its difficult for me to describe our sound in a concise way, and no one song fully gives a representation of it, but here’s a go: we have four singers and songwriters, do a lot of vocal harmonies, and the songs are very dynamic with many changing parts and moods. They are also highly textural, featuring five musicians (two guitars, banjo, bass, and drums) each with unique yet congruous playing styles. It’s kind of folk and country meets rock and punk meets funk and soul, with splashes of other things thrown in, like hip-hop, jazz, psych, and prog.”

After listening to the album, I’d say his description pretty well nails it, and I love their eclectic music. I always try to include a few lyrics in my reviews, but the Ithaca Bottom Boys’ lyrics are so colorful and hilarious that I’ll be quoting them a lot.

Ithaca Bottom Boys 2

The album kicks off with “Blues in a Bottle,” a bluesy Rockabilly romp that sets a light-hearted tone and plants a big smile on my face, even though the lyrics address the guy’s messed-up woman who’s into some bad shit: “Blues in a bottle, blues in a bottle. Where do you think you’re at pretty mama. You went and kicked my dog, and now you drown my cat.Goin’ to silly-putty, goin’ to silly-putty. Sorry I can’t take you pretty mama. I don’t abide no woman, who goes round sniffin’ glue.” The song immediately segues into “Gasoline n’ Kerosene,” a very catchy tune with very morbid lyrics about how he killed the woman who double-crossed him, burned down her house, and was hung for his crime: “When I went to that house you said that you’d be, you took one look into my eyes, and you began to flee. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene you owe me money for. You bad ol’ broad you shot me down, and now you’ll be no more. / Well… Just before that lever did let my gallows swing, I saw my aged mother a weepin’ after me. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene I can’t believe my sin, My soul shall burn as you have done and never…Will I see your sweet face again.”

Winter Biking” sees the singer riding his bike into town on icy roads, taking a spill, and wishing he’d listened to his momma about taking the bus instead – all metaphors for the risks we take in life. “Thirty bellow but I’m still sweatin’. The devil only knows what I am gettin’ into. Well up a hill down a hill the struggles that I’ve been through. The thing about life is the road always continues.” The guys’ vocal harmonies on this track are especially wonderful. The guys change gears (pun intended) to an R&B vibe with the delightfully soulful love song “Baby.” The opening bass riff that continues throughout the track reminds me a bit of The Temptations’ classic “My Girl.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Hail to Dale,” which humorously takes on the perils of heavy drinking with a rowdy mix of music styles ranging from blues to bluegrass to funk. The lyrics are both funny and poignant: “Well… if I don’t dale a beer tonight, I might as well start a rowdy bar fight. Cause I hate myself and I hate my life. Pain and pleasure’s the same to me, and that all started when I was three, ’cause my daddy switched the bottle.

Continuing with the theme of substance abuse, the guys veer off into psychedelic madness on the marvelously trippy “Salvia Apple.” The zany track sounds like what we’d expect from the bastard children of Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento, with all sorts of melodic change-ups, quirky instrumentals and crazed vocals. The lyrics are hilarious yet deeply poetic, as if from a fractured Shakespearean comedy: “Salvia apple and a bottle of jack. All I’ve had to eat or drink and that is a fact. Don’t care if I go hungry I’m just lookin’ to get smacked. Pass out in the jungle by the railroad tracks./ I’m a derelict, no one cares if I’m recked or sober. Grown colder, shouldered at the might of a globe wide society. So deprived of life yet so maniacally living. My state be so squalor I take whatever I’m given.”

Flip That Record Jhonny” is a rousing Bluegrass/Rockabilly mostly instrumental tune that makes you want to kick up your heels. The guitar work and vocal harmonies are really terrific. And speaking of Dr. Demento, the guys get downright scandalous on “Demented Family.” The highly provocative lyrics seem to poke fun of a certain demographic, calling out incest and religious fanaticism: “Well my family tree’s got lotsa knots, and I get a lot o’tention from the cops, Cause incest on the ranch is plain to see. Pappy loved his sister and that made my daddy. And my daddy loved his sister too and that made little ol’ me. Well I never had no sister so I just loved my niece. I lessend my genealogy by stickin’ my D in her crease.” Oh my! They turn mellow as they sing the virtues of toking up on “Reefer Makes Everything Better,” a funny ditty with an early Lovin’ Spoonful vibe.

Perhaps the wildest track is “Summer Beavers,” the title being a play on the leading lyrics “Some are beavers, some are people…and most don’t really understand.” This long track is a real tour de force, with a mix of genres that go from blues to punk to country to funk to rap – sometimes all in the same stanza, kinda like The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done on some of their songs. The guys go crazy with bizarre lyrics that sound like being on an acid trip: “Rippin’ and a skippin’ like a minnow in the river. Susquehanna wit’ yo mama, catchin’ tuna on a canoe. Hock at me I’ll lock you in a rock up in Chautauqua. Yo hablo con Jorgito, necesito mucha agua. Pappy’s down the road in a jalopy popin’ poppy seeds, cruisin’ past the stoppers, coppers crackin’ down on acid droppers. Baller all are things, some are beavers. Tall like cedars, small like skeevers. We be eaters, feeders, bleeders, breeders, breathers, and beasts like golden retrievers, whaddap? ha-ha-ha.”

The guys seem to channel The Red Hot Chili Peppers again on the languid “No Regrets,” with jangly guitars, funky bass and vocals that sound a bit like Anthony Kiedis. They then abruptly change things up again on “Surfer NY,” an exuberant tune with awesome surf-rock guitars and a frantic punk beat. The explicit lyrics speak for themselves: “Surfin’ New York, yes I’m surfin’ New York. Havin’ sex on the rocky beaches. I’ve got lotsa rocks in my breeches. No I don’t know how they got in the laundry. No I’m not doin’ the nasty momma. No mama no mama no mama no. No those aren’t crack rocks don’t be silly. That’s just some crusty jizz from my willy. No mama no I’m not abusin’ myself. No mama no don’t kick me outa the house.” It’s an insanely wild trip from start to finish!

I must say that Ithaca Bottom Boys is unquestionably one of the most unusual and enjoyable albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and I love this crazy band! If you like unique, eclectic and unorthodox music, then this album should be in your collection!

Connect with the Ithaca Bottom Boys:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Guest Post: ‘The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station’ by Peter Kleinhans

Peter Kleinhans

This is a guest post by Peter Kleinhans, a musician based in New York City who this past February released his debut album Something’s Not Right. After spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, at the age of 50 he decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. He explains a few thoughts about his new-found music career:

“I wish I’d begun writing music at an earlier age, because as a father of two who also drives harness racehorses, bets thoroughbred horses professionally, raises organic beef, chicken, and lamb, and is engaged to be married for the third time, I find that the music often gets squeezed to the sidelines. But I’m happy with what I have had the time to create, and I hope that listeners will find something to enjoy here.

Although I’ve only started with music over the past couple of years, I credit the years of racing horses, often in the Midwest, hanging out with the Runyonesque characters of that business, and sharing their daily travails, for much of what I’ve written. I was born and raised in New York City, left it for twenty years, and am now back. It’s an amazing city, full of amazing people, but New Yorkers are just as often oblivious to the daily existential struggles of a family in Indiana as the other way around. The horses aren’t my full-time business anymore, but I still drive occasionally.”

In his thoughtfully-written article, Peter discusses his inspiration behind a new song he’s recorded called “91st Street,” in which he describes the storied past of the former 91st Street subway station.

The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station

At the time of writing, I have a gig in six weeks, and three unfinished songs to get done for it.  If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you might be familiar with the fact that it’s easier to write about what you’re working on instead of working on it.  It’s a variation on that disastrous first-line-of-a-poem that goes something like “I sit here, waiting for ideas to enter my failed brain.” But the song I’m currently writing, about the abandoned subway station on 91st street and Broadway, begs for context.  It’s written for those people who know about the history of New York’s subway system and graffiti’s place in it. But I realize that those people are becoming further and further between, so for those who don’t know much about that history, here’s some context, here’s something of what I’m trying to get at.

Kleinhans 91st St Platform
The view of the 91st street platform recalls a different New York.

If you ride the 1 train in New York regularly, there’s a good chance you’ve been riding past an iconic piece of the city’s ever-changing history without ever noticing it.  Between the 86th and 96th street station is what some New Yorkers call the “Ghost Station.”  When the subway was built in 1904, trains were shorter, and stations were built at 86th, 91st, and 96th.  With longer cars entering the scene in the 1950s and no real justification for three stops within such a close proximity, the IRT company, who then ran the 1 train, made the decision to close the station in 1954. The station has remained dormant since.  However, its relatively easy access combined with a healthy dose of  spookiness, intrigue, and mystery, have made it a magnet for subway connoisseurs, especially those with a hankering to remember what New York looked like just a few short decades ago.

In 2002, Henry Chalfant, along with co-conspirators Tony Silver and Martha Cooper, released the twentieth-anniversary edition of Style Wars, regarded by many as the iconic documentary piece on the emergence of hip-hop, most specifically the then-emergent phenomenon of subway graffiti.  The anniversary edition contained a treasure trove of new material, most excitingly a seemingly never-ending montage of Chalfant’s photographs of the city’s most creatively-bombed subway cars.

But 16 years have passed, even since the twentieth anniversary of Style Wars. Nevertheless, a fascination continues with the work and culture from the 70s and 80s, and one of the few places to actually feel a bit of that old texture is the 91st street station. I haven’t had the guts to jump down onto the tracks from 86th street and run along them for five blocks to visit the station, at least not yet. I don’t have a bucket list, but that would be on it.  Although it doesn’t take much to find graffiti, it’s increasingly hard to remember that graffiti and subways used to be inseparable as medium and message.

But the trains are now gone as the artists’ primary canvases, ever since the MTA claimed victory over subway graffiti in 1989. The subways, once seen by some as “masterpiece art galleries” and which tourists had once come New York to witness, were now clean and cool – a huge quality-of-life improvement from the point-of-view of most New Yorkers. For some, nostalgia lingers.  I grew up riding the subway in New York and I miss the graffiti deeply.  The subways may have had a bad last couple of years as far as ‘signal problems,’ but anyone who remembers the subways in the 70s would be quick to point out that they encompassed an entirely other level of dysfunction.  Graffiti grew out of these difficult and dangerous times in a city on fire, and to completely glamorize it as an art, while glossing over its flipside of danger and violence is to sanitize it in a way completely counter to its original intentions.

As a New York Times review of the 20th anniversary edition of “Style Wars” put it back in 2003, Absent the urine-soaked subway platforms and pervasive sense of danger that accompanied the rise of graffiti art in New York in the 70’s and 80’s, viewers can happily sit back in their parlors and decipher the green and brown polka-dotted caterpillar scheme that unites ‘’Seen’ and ‘Doze,’’ or Quik’s inventive letter-ending arrows pointing sideways, outward and upward to a seemingly endless universe of graffiti.

Klenihans Pic 2
Dondi’s legendary “Children of the Grave”, 1980; it ran two days before being painted over.

Kleinhans pic 3
The “white elephant” car used as one of the first in a series of graffiti-control measures that started in New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, circa 1981.

The subway train cars were quite literally whitewashed in the 1980s, marking the beginning of the end of subway graffiti. The closure of 5 Pointz in Queens in 2013 – a graffiti landmark substantial enough to  draw crowds – marked another dramatic victory of the corporate over the merely creative. 5 Pointz is now being developed into a 40-story luxury residential building in Long Island City.

5 Pointz was painted over — with no advance notice to the artists whose work had been displayed there for years — over the course of one night.

Kleinhans pic 4
5 Pointz, in its glory, April, 2013

Kleinhans pic 5
5 Pointz, whitewashed, November, 2013

My inspiration for writing the song “91st Street” was to honor this fading culture.  Although graffiti is everywhere now, the culture has been commodified, made clever, palatable, and digestible like everything else.  You can create a masterpiece on your computer using only your brains and your fingers; once you had to straddle a parked train and decorate it from top to bottom, with paint you had stolen, in the middle of the night, the police or a rival gang around a curve and ready to pounce.  And you knew that even if you succeeded, your work had no permanence — it would be painted over within days.

What makes the 91st street station important is that it’s one of those weird lost-in-time places that, from simple benign neglect, has become a repository for a fertile period in the history of New York art.  Taggers continue to make the short pilgrimage to view and perhaps to tag one spot in the one place in the New York subway system that is more like a shrine to the past here than just about anything else.  After all, cleaning it up wouldn’t make anybody any money, and therein lies its durability. Like a root cellar where one can imagine all manner of unnameable fungi finding a foothold, it maintains its spirit of dankness and chaos in a world that would love to be done with such inconveniences. It holds a special place in my heart and some day I hope to stand on its platform like the anachronism I suppose I am.

“91st Street” has a progressive/jazzy vibe, with a simple but cool drumbeat, funky bass line and fuzzy guitar riff. Toward the end of the track, Peter injects a quirky psychedelic synth that makes for a great finish. You can listen to “91st Street” by clicking the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzMXix1s0HGeZk9meVBoRExwcVN1YU1rcGg2SDlVeEFmWVo0/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about Peter, check out his website and connect with him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “The Divide”

I’m back in the UK, this time to shine my spotlight on the band BLACK | LAKES, who just released their phenomenal debut single “The Divide.” The band is comprised of five members who hail from South Wales and Southwest England, including Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Influenced by too many bands to name, they play an electrifying and melodic style of progressive alternative metal rock.

Black Lakes Promo 2

The single is the title track from their EP The Divide, which was produced and mastered by Romesh Dodangoda at Longwave Studios, and premiered along with a review on Down the Front Media, which you can read here. As the band explained in that post, “The Divide” is “about rejecting the predetermined path laid out in front of you by mainstream society. It’s about demanding your individuality in a world hell bent on making you the same.” The article’s author Claire Hill goes on to say: “Based on the band’s collective personal experience and persistent, bitter disappointment at being let down by those holding positions of power and authority, ‘The Divide’ is a pretty good assessment of what a lot of people feel about what is happening in society today.”

The song starts off with a delicate synth chord, then blasts open with a cascade of gnarly and wailing guitars, mammoth bass, and thunderous drums. As the song progresses, layers of jangly and distorted guitars are added to the already dynamic mix, propelling the track into the sonic stratosphere.  Will’s gorgeous vocals are filled with passion as he fervently sings the powerful lyrics, soaring to intense heights in the choruses that spread chills up and down our spines: “One by one we fall in line with docile obedience. In lies we trust, stand in line justified you’re one of us. Father forgive them for the lives they have stolen. Further we are taken down the paths they have chosen. One more time.”

It’s a monumental track, and as close to perfect as any rock song I’ve heard lately. The brilliant video was created by Yuvraj Imaginaria. Check it out:

Connect with Black | Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on  Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes